Photos reveal how east London docks went from slums of early 20th century to luxury flats

After the closure of London‘s docklands in the late 1960s Limehouse went in to decline.

But these vintage photographs show the fishing community in its bustling heyday. 

Just four miles from the centre of London Limehouse is now a luxurious residential area between the City and Canary Wharf.

By the late 1980s it had become home to financial workers in the city. It is currently home to former foreign secretary Lord David Owen and actors Ian McKellan and Steven Berkoff.

But these photos, taken from between 1908 and 1959, show as a busy docklands community. 

Men carry cured fish ready for dispatch, children play in the street and workers rescue a sunken barge.

In one photo, taken in 1936, Evan Morgan, a conservative party candidate, is canvassing for votes.

And in another, taken in 1908, six girls Morris dance on the grounds of Thomas Street Girls School in Stepney. 

Barges waiting for access to Regents Canal from Regents Canal Dock, viewed from one of two new electric coal dischargers erected at the dock at Limehouse, on June 7, 1926. They are the first of their kind to be used in the docks and were specially designed for the job. East London can be seen in the background

Barges waiting for access to Regents Canal from Regents Canal Dock, viewed from one of two new electric coal dischargers erected at the dock at Limehouse, on June 7, 1926. They are the first of their kind to be used in the docks and were specially designed for the job. East London can be seen in the background

Barges waiting for access to Regents Canal from Regents Canal Dock, viewed from one of two new electric coal dischargers erected at the dock at Limehouse, on June 7, 1926. They are the first of their kind to be used in the docks and were specially designed for the job. East London can be seen in the background

Three seamen outside Dumbar House on the West India Dock Road, Limehouse, London, around 1925. The road was developed to link the West India Docks with the City of London. West India Docks is now home to some of the world's largest banks and other businesses. Yet London was once the busiest port in the world. West India Docks were the first purpose-built docks to be built there. Closed in 1980, the old docks were regenerated into the shops, restuarants and Canary Wharf

Three seamen outside Dumbar House on the West India Dock Road, Limehouse, London, around 1925. The road was developed to link the West India Docks with the City of London. West India Docks is now home to some of the world's largest banks and other businesses. Yet London was once the busiest port in the world. West India Docks were the first purpose-built docks to be built there. Closed in 1980, the old docks were regenerated into the shops, restuarants and Canary Wharf

Three seamen outside Dumbar House on the West India Dock Road, Limehouse, London, around 1925. The road was developed to link the West India Docks with the City of London. West India Docks is now home to some of the world’s largest banks and other businesses. Yet London was once the busiest port in the world. West India Docks were the first purpose-built docks to be built there. Closed in 1980, the old docks were regenerated into the shops, restuarants and Canary Wharf

F Leonard, an inspector for the Ministry of Health, making a visit to Limehouse Cottage Gardens in Stepney, east London, where the council is planning to demolish houses and shops to build blocks of flats. He is surrounded by a group of local residents, protesting against the improvement plan on September 1, 1925

F Leonard, an inspector for the Ministry of Health, making a visit to Limehouse Cottage Gardens in Stepney, east London, where the council is planning to demolish houses and shops to build blocks of flats. He is surrounded by a group of local residents, protesting against the improvement plan on September 1, 1925

F Leonard, an inspector for the Ministry of Health, making a visit to Limehouse Cottage Gardens in Stepney, east London, where the council is planning to demolish houses and shops to build blocks of flats. He is surrounded by a group of local residents, protesting against the improvement plan on September 1, 1925

The Harbour Master's office at 74 Narrow Street, Limehouse, London, c1905. A harbourmaster is an official responsible for enforcing the regulations of a particular harbour or port, in order to ensure the safety of those using the river. Long wooden ladders led down to the water from the offices and other buildings to enable quick access to boats on the river

The Harbour Master's office at 74 Narrow Street, Limehouse, London, c1905. A harbourmaster is an official responsible for enforcing the regulations of a particular harbour or port, in order to ensure the safety of those using the river. Long wooden ladders led down to the water from the offices and other buildings to enable quick access to boats on the river

The Harbour Master’s office at 74 Narrow Street, Limehouse, London, c1905. A harbourmaster is an official responsible for enforcing the regulations of a particular harbour or port, in order to ensure the safety of those using the river. Long wooden ladders led down to the water from the offices and other buildings to enable quick access to boats on the river

The Rev FH Higley of the Church of Our Lady Immaculate climbs to the top of a ladder on the site where he is building a church at Limehouse, with the assistance of his congregation, on June 7, 1927. The Parish of Limehouse is situated in the Tower Hamlets Deanery. It was founded in 1881. The church was built in 1934 and consecrated on October 17, 1945

The Rev FH Higley of the Church of Our Lady Immaculate climbs to the top of a ladder on the site where he is building a church at Limehouse, with the assistance of his congregation, on June 7, 1927. The Parish of Limehouse is situated in the Tower Hamlets Deanery. It was founded in 1881. The church was built in 1934 and consecrated on October 17, 1945

The Rev FH Higley of the Church of Our Lady Immaculate climbs to the top of a ladder on the site where he is building a church at Limehouse, with the assistance of his congregation, on June 7, 1927. The Parish of Limehouse is situated in the Tower Hamlets Deanery. It was founded in 1881. The church was built in 1934 and consecrated on October 17, 1945

American actor Lon Chaney (1883 - 1930) plays the Bishop of Limehouse by day and a criminal mastermind by night in 'The Blackbird', directed by Tod Browning. Taken in October 1925 Chaney. He lives above a cheap bar in the Limehouse district, where his alter ego The Bishop, is beloved among all guests

American actor Lon Chaney (1883 - 1930) plays the Bishop of Limehouse by day and a criminal mastermind by night in 'The Blackbird', directed by Tod Browning. Taken in October 1925 Chaney. He lives above a cheap bar in the Limehouse district, where his alter ego The Bishop, is beloved among all guests

American actor Lon Chaney (1883 – 1930) plays the Bishop of Limehouse by day and a criminal mastermind by night in ‘The Blackbird’, directed by Tod Browning. Taken in October 1925 Chaney. He lives above a cheap bar in the Limehouse district, where his alter ego The Bishop, is beloved among all guests

An old tavern on the riverside at Limehouse taken from between 1926 and 1927. A man works on his boat below the run-down building locals used to congregate for a drink after a day's work. Limehouse got its name from the lime kilns in the area. These were used by potteries that crafted products for shipping companies and ships in the East End docks. Some also believe that the name referred to the sailors who disembarked from their ships in this area

An old tavern on the riverside at Limehouse taken from between 1926 and 1927. A man works on his boat below the run-down building locals used to congregate for a drink after a day's work. Limehouse got its name from the lime kilns in the area. These were used by potteries that crafted products for shipping companies and ships in the East End docks. Some also believe that the name referred to the sailors who disembarked from their ships in this area

An old tavern on the riverside at Limehouse taken from between 1926 and 1927. A man works on his boat below the run-down building locals used to congregate for a drink after a day’s work. Limehouse got its name from the lime kilns in the area. These were used by potteries that crafted products for shipping companies and ships in the East End docks. Some also believe that the name referred to the sailors who disembarked from their ships in this area

A street in the slum area of Pennyfields, Limehouse, London. This photo was taken in 1925. The street formed a 'buffer' between the shabby respectability of the High Street and the Limehouse Causeway - home to London's original Chinatown. During the closing decades of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth, Pennyfields was a mixture of both societies. By the inter-war years the street had become the centre of the Chinese East End. All the buildings associated with the street's past have been demolished and were replaced by public housing during the 1960s

A street in the slum area of Pennyfields, Limehouse, London. This photo was taken in 1925. The street formed a 'buffer' between the shabby respectability of the High Street and the Limehouse Causeway - home to London's original Chinatown. During the closing decades of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth, Pennyfields was a mixture of both societies. By the inter-war years the street had become the centre of the Chinese East End. All the buildings associated with the street's past have been demolished and were replaced by public housing during the 1960s

A street in the slum area of Pennyfields, Limehouse, London. This photo was taken in 1925. The street formed a ‘buffer’ between the shabby respectability of the High Street and the Limehouse Causeway – home to London’s original Chinatown. During the closing decades of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth, Pennyfields was a mixture of both societies. By the inter-war years the street had become the centre of the Chinese East End. All the buildings associated with the street’s past have been demolished and were replaced by public housing during the 1960s

The western entrance to Pentonville Tunnel, Regent's Canal, London, c1905. The Regent's Canal, connecting the Paddington Canal and the Thames at Limehouse, was opened in 1820. The canal cost £772,000 to construct, twice the amount originally estimated. In 1929 the Regent's Canal Company purchased the Grand Junction and Warwick Canals, merging the three waterways to create the Grand Union Canal

The western entrance to Pentonville Tunnel, Regent's Canal, London, c1905. The Regent's Canal, connecting the Paddington Canal and the Thames at Limehouse, was opened in 1820. The canal cost £772,000 to construct, twice the amount originally estimated. In 1929 the Regent's Canal Company purchased the Grand Junction and Warwick Canals, merging the three waterways to create the Grand Union Canal

The western entrance to Pentonville Tunnel, Regent’s Canal, London, c1905. The Regent’s Canal, connecting the Paddington Canal and the Thames at Limehouse, was opened in 1820. The canal cost £772,000 to construct, twice the amount originally estimated. In 1929 the Regent’s Canal Company purchased the Grand Junction and Warwick Canals, merging the three waterways to create the Grand Union Canal

Limehouse Pier, Poplar, London, 1908. A bridge leads to the pier looking towards Dundee Wharf and Horn and Chequers Public House with barges resting on the mud and a man sitting in a rowing boat on the water. In the ninetieth century, watermen were losing business to steamboats and tried to encourage trade by erecting a floating pier at Limehouse Hole Stairs. It was erected in 1843 but did not have the required effect and was gone by 1860. However it was the first pier in Limehouse Hole, but not the last because when a passenger steamboat service to the locality was proposed, a new floating pier was erected at Limehouse Hole Stairs in 1870

Limehouse Pier, Poplar, London, 1908. A bridge leads to the pier looking towards Dundee Wharf and Horn and Chequers Public House with barges resting on the mud and a man sitting in a rowing boat on the water. In the ninetieth century, watermen were losing business to steamboats and tried to encourage trade by erecting a floating pier at Limehouse Hole Stairs. It was erected in 1843 but did not have the required effect and was gone by 1860. However it was the first pier in Limehouse Hole, but not the last because when a passenger steamboat service to the locality was proposed, a new floating pier was erected at Limehouse Hole Stairs in 1870

Limehouse Pier, Poplar, London, 1908. A bridge leads to the pier looking towards Dundee Wharf and Horn and Chequers Public House with barges resting on the mud and a man sitting in a rowing boat on the water. In the ninetieth century, watermen were losing business to steamboats and tried to encourage trade by erecting a floating pier at Limehouse Hole Stairs. It was erected in 1843 but did not have the required effect and was gone by 1860. However it was the first pier in Limehouse Hole, but not the last because when a passenger steamboat service to the locality was proposed, a new floating pier was erected at Limehouse Hole Stairs in 1870

Boats on Regent's Canal, London, c1905. The architect John Nash played a part in its construction, using his idea of 'barges moving through an urban landscape'. The canal became part of the Grand Union Canal in 1929. The Grand Union Canal's main line starts in London and ends in Birmingham, stretching for 137 miles (220 km) with 166 locks. It has arms to places including Leicester, Slough, Aylesbury, Wendover and Northampton

Boats on Regent's Canal, London, c1905. The architect John Nash played a part in its construction, using his idea of 'barges moving through an urban landscape'. The canal became part of the Grand Union Canal in 1929. The Grand Union Canal's main line starts in London and ends in Birmingham, stretching for 137 miles (220 km) with 166 locks. It has arms to places including Leicester, Slough, Aylesbury, Wendover and Northampton

Boats on Regent’s Canal, London, c1905. The architect John Nash played a part in its construction, using his idea of ‘barges moving through an urban landscape’. The canal became part of the Grand Union Canal in 1929. The Grand Union Canal’s main line starts in London and ends in Birmingham, stretching for 137 miles (220 km) with 166 locks. It has arms to places including Leicester, Slough, Aylesbury, Wendover and Northampton

A group of happy children playing in a street in London's Limehouse around 1900. Limehouse stretches from the end of Cable Street and Butcher Row in the west with Stepney to Stainsby Road near Bartlett Park in the east with Poplar; and from the West India Dock (South Dock) in Canary Wharf and River Thames in the south to Salmon Lane and Rhodeswell Road in the north

A group of happy children playing in a street in London's Limehouse around 1900. Limehouse stretches from the end of Cable Street and Butcher Row in the west with Stepney to Stainsby Road near Bartlett Park in the east with Poplar; and from the West India Dock (South Dock) in Canary Wharf and River Thames in the south to Salmon Lane and Rhodeswell Road in the north

A group of happy children playing in a street in London’s Limehouse around 1900. Limehouse stretches from the end of Cable Street and Butcher Row in the west with Stepney to Stainsby Road near Bartlett Park in the east with Poplar; and from the West India Dock (South Dock) in Canary Wharf and River Thames in the south to Salmon Lane and Rhodeswell Road in the north

A youth standing outside C Middleburg's sacks and bags shop in London's Limehouse around 1900. By the beginning of the twentieth century there were two separate communities in the area – the Chinese from Shanghai were based around Pennyfields and Ming Street (between where Westferry and Poplar DLR stations are now) and the immigrants from Southern China and Canton lived around Gill Street and the Limehouse Causeway. By 1911 the whole area had started to be called Chinatown by the rest of London

A youth standing outside C Middleburg's sacks and bags shop in London's Limehouse around 1900. By the beginning of the twentieth century there were two separate communities in the area – the Chinese from Shanghai were based around Pennyfields and Ming Street (between where Westferry and Poplar DLR stations are now) and the immigrants from Southern China and Canton lived around Gill Street and the Limehouse Causeway. By 1911 the whole area had started to be called Chinatown by the rest of London

A youth standing outside C Middleburg’s sacks and bags shop in London’s Limehouse around 1900. By the beginning of the twentieth century there were two separate communities in the area – the Chinese from Shanghai were based around Pennyfields and Ming Street (between where Westferry and Poplar DLR stations are now) and the immigrants from Southern China and Canton lived around Gill Street and the Limehouse Causeway. By 1911 the whole area had started to be called Chinatown by the rest of London

Pay Day on the River Thames, Limehouse, London, 1954. From the late 1950s Narrow Street's houses underwent gentrification. By the 1970s and 1980s disused warehouses were being converted in to apartments. Private developers have since added new units, some of which were built quickly to capitalise on the Dockland's residential boom

Pay Day on the River Thames, Limehouse, London, 1954. From the late 1950s Narrow Street's houses underwent gentrification. By the 1970s and 1980s disused warehouses were being converted in to apartments. Private developers have since added new units, some of which were built quickly to capitalise on the Dockland's residential boom

Pay Day on the River Thames, Limehouse, London, 1954. From the late 1950s Narrow Street’s houses underwent gentrification. By the 1970s and 1980s disused warehouses were being converted in to apartments. Private developers have since added new units, some of which were built quickly to capitalise on the Dockland’s residential boom

Children playing in a street in London's Limehouse around 1900. Most of the streets of the early 20th century have since been demolished after much of the area was destroyed during the Blitz. Some 54 bombs were dropped over Limehouse between October 7, 1940 and June 6, 1941

Children playing in a street in London's Limehouse around 1900. Most of the streets of the early 20th century have since been demolished after much of the area was destroyed during the Blitz. Some 54 bombs were dropped over Limehouse between October 7, 1940 and June 6, 1941

Children playing in a street in London’s Limehouse around 1900. Most of the streets of the early 20th century have since been demolished after much of the area was destroyed during the Blitz. Some 54 bombs were dropped over Limehouse between October 7, 1940 and June 6, 1941

A view of Pennyfields and the Limehouse Causeway, London, in 1930. Limehouse Causeway is a street in east London that used to be home to the original Chinatown of London. A combination of bomb damage during the Second World War and later redevelopment means that almost nothing is left of the original buildings of the street. The area is part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets

A view of Pennyfields and the Limehouse Causeway, London, in 1930. Limehouse Causeway is a street in east London that used to be home to the original Chinatown of London. A combination of bomb damage during the Second World War and later redevelopment means that almost nothing is left of the original buildings of the street. The area is part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets

A view of Pennyfields and the Limehouse Causeway, London, in 1930. Limehouse Causeway is a street in east London that used to be home to the original Chinatown of London. A combination of bomb damage during the Second World War and later redevelopment means that almost nothing is left of the original buildings of the street. The area is part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Girls returning from a play at Thomas Street Girls School in Limehouse, Stepney, London, 1908. They walked in an orderly column four abreast through the hall. Many of the girls wore bows in their hair as well as the school uniform and polished black boots

Girls returning from a play at Thomas Street Girls School in Limehouse, Stepney, London, 1908. They walked in an orderly column four abreast through the hall. Many of the girls wore bows in their hair as well as the school uniform and polished black boots

Girls returning from a play at Thomas Street Girls School in Limehouse, Stepney, London, 1908. They walked in an orderly column four abreast through the hall. Many of the girls wore bows in their hair as well as the school uniform and polished black boots

Boats at Limehouse Pier, Poplar, London, 1908. A bridge leads to a floating pier with rowing boats moored on the river underneath. In the background a heavy mist hangs over the River Thames

Boats at Limehouse Pier, Poplar, London, 1908. A bridge leads to a floating pier with rowing boats moored on the river underneath. In the background a heavy mist hangs over the River Thames

Boats at Limehouse Pier, Poplar, London, 1908. A bridge leads to a floating pier with rowing boats moored on the river underneath. In the background a heavy mist hangs over the River Thames

Pennyfields and Limehouse Chinese shop on the corner of Turners Buildings in east London pictured on February 4, 1930. Trade between Britain and China meant some sailors settled in Limehouse in the late 1880s. Stalls and stores selling food, herbs, and other items which catered to Chinese tastes were brought in to the area

Pennyfields and Limehouse Chinese shop on the corner of Turners Buildings in east London pictured on February 4, 1930. Trade between Britain and China meant some sailors settled in Limehouse in the late 1880s. Stalls and stores selling food, herbs, and other items which catered to Chinese tastes were brought in to the area

Pennyfields and Limehouse Chinese shop on the corner of Turners Buildings in east London pictured on February 4, 1930. Trade between Britain and China meant some sailors settled in Limehouse in the late 1880s. Stalls and stores selling food, herbs, and other items which catered to Chinese tastes were brought in to the area

Girls morris dancing in playground at Thomas Street Girls School in Limehouse in 1908. A group of girls in traditional costume dance in the school playground. This dance was a ritual folk dance normally performed in rural England by groups of specially chosen and trained men. The dancers wear white clothes and dance with bells fastened to the legs or body. They were performed to bring luck and the dance is believed to have magic power

Girls morris dancing in playground at Thomas Street Girls School in Limehouse in 1908. A group of girls in traditional costume dance in the school playground. This dance was a ritual folk dance normally performed in rural England by groups of specially chosen and trained men. The dancers wear white clothes and dance with bells fastened to the legs or body. They were performed to bring luck and the dance is believed to have magic power

Girls morris dancing in playground at Thomas Street Girls School in Limehouse in 1908. A group of girls in traditional costume dance in the school playground. This dance was a ritual folk dance normally performed in rural England by groups of specially chosen and trained men. The dancers wear white clothes and dance with bells fastened to the legs or body. They were performed to bring luck and the dance is believed to have magic power

Port of London: British sailors having a beer in the Bluepost pub in Limehouse around 1939. The Port of London lies along the banks of the River Thames from the capital to the North Sea. Once the largest port in the world, it is currently the United Kingdom's second largest port, after Grimsby and Immingham

Port of London: British sailors having a beer in the Bluepost pub in Limehouse around 1939. The Port of London lies along the banks of the River Thames from the capital to the North Sea. Once the largest port in the world, it is currently the United Kingdom's second largest port, after Grimsby and Immingham

Port of London: British sailors having a beer in the Bluepost pub in Limehouse around 1939. The Port of London lies along the banks of the River Thames from the capital to the North Sea. Once the largest port in the world, it is currently the United Kingdom’s second largest port, after Grimsby and Immingham

One Of The Locks on a route From Limehouse Through The River Lea. A lock is a device used for raising and lowering boats, ships and other watercraft between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways

One Of The Locks on a route From Limehouse Through The River Lea. A lock is a device used for raising and lowering boats, ships and other watercraft between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways

One Of The Locks on a route From Limehouse Through The River Lea. A lock is a device used for raising and lowering boats, ships and other watercraft between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways

Broadway Wharf, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, London, in an area heavily damaged during WWII. At the left are premises offering craft for hire, possibly part of the adjacent premises of Richard Waters, lighterman; further right the harbour master's residence can be seen. Women in white dresses look out at the river

Broadway Wharf, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, London, in an area heavily damaged during WWII. At the left are premises offering craft for hire, possibly part of the adjacent premises of Richard Waters, lighterman; further right the harbour master's residence can be seen. Women in white dresses look out at the river

Broadway Wharf, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, London, in an area heavily damaged during WWII. At the left are premises offering craft for hire, possibly part of the adjacent premises of Richard Waters, lighterman; further right the harbour master’s residence can be seen. Women in white dresses look out at the river

Children playing in a sandpit on a housing estate in Clement Street, Limehouse, east London on April 9, 1959. The sandpit features 'Gulliver', a concrete sculpture of a reclining human figure by Trevor Tennant

Children playing in a sandpit on a housing estate in Clement Street, Limehouse, east London on April 9, 1959. The sandpit features 'Gulliver', a concrete sculpture of a reclining human figure by Trevor Tennant

Children playing in a sandpit on a housing estate in Clement Street, Limehouse, east London on April 9, 1959. The sandpit features ‘Gulliver’, a concrete sculpture of a reclining human figure by Trevor Tennant

A street in Limehouse, London's Chinatown, in April 1911. The Chinese community was never very large but it gained a reputation for gambling and opium-smoking and Limehouse provided the backdrop for the Dr Fu Manchu films. Their creator claimed the idea for the character was modelled on a Chinese man of unusual appearance seen on Limehouse Causeway one foggy night in 1911

A street in Limehouse, London's Chinatown, in April 1911. The Chinese community was never very large but it gained a reputation for gambling and opium-smoking and Limehouse provided the backdrop for the Dr Fu Manchu films. Their creator claimed the idea for the character was modelled on a Chinese man of unusual appearance seen on Limehouse Causeway one foggy night in 1911

A street in Limehouse, London’s Chinatown, in April 1911. The Chinese community was never very large but it gained a reputation for gambling and opium-smoking and Limehouse provided the backdrop for the Dr Fu Manchu films. Their creator claimed the idea for the character was modelled on a Chinese man of unusual appearance seen on Limehouse Causeway one foggy night in 1911

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